.

 

Reviews - English

Nor Gyank / Los Angeles
The Japan Times
The Boston Globe
The Philadelphia Festival 
of World Cinema 
The Philadelphia Inquirer
Time out
Torronto Film Festival
Variety
Welcomat
What’s on in London
Armenian genocide of 1915 examined in pair of films at MFA, Boston
IFF Rotterdam - Musicians
Film West
Asbarez
The Film Society of Lincoln Center New York
The Harvard Film Archive
The Boston Phoenix
Hayastani Hanrapetutiun
Mirror-Spectator On-Line
Dagens Nyheter
Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive
On Screen
Home

© by author or publisher

If the © holders want us not to publish the text please contact me and we will delete it.
Webmaster e-mail

 
 

THE PHILADELPHIA FESTIVAL OF WORLD CINEMA

The Films of Don Askarian

The Festival is honored to present the works of Don Askarian. Born in 1949 in Stepanakert, Autonomous Region of Nagorno Karabakh in the USSR he studied history and art in Moscow and worked as an assistant director and film critic. Askarian was imprisoned in 1975 and emigrated to West Berlin in 1978. His credits include THE BEAR (1984) a feature based on a Chekhov story.

AVETIK is a poetic film which centers around Avetik, an Armenian filmmaker exiled in Berlin. He recalls his childhood, discusses alienation, and tries to reconcile history with Artashes, a 5th century King. In Armenia, a shepherd searches for lost sheep, while men with flamethrowers patrol the countryside… This poetic film beautifully expresses the longing for cultural identity and selfhood.

Friday, May 7,7:00pm with Don Askarian in person AMC Midtown Theatre. 1412 Chestnut St. 567-7021 Friday, May 14, 8:30pm (Askarian will not be present) UA RiverView Plaza. 1400 S. Delaware Ave. (at Reed) 755-2219

KOMITAS was born to a family of music lovers in 1869 in Kutahya, Asia Minor. He spent his first years dedicated to music; his last in mental asylums, mourning the death of his people. In 1915, the Ottoman Empire embarked on a systematic campaign to exterminate the Armenian people, resulting in the death of 2 million people, ¾ the entire Armenian population. Komitas stopped composing and withdrew into a world of tortured memories. This evocative portrait of Komitas relies not so much on biographical detail as on visual poetry and impression. Askarian calls it a "hieroglyph of reality" and dedicates it to the millions who died.

Saturday, May 8,8:15pm. Don Askarian in person DA RiverView Plaza. 1400 S. Delaware Ave. (at Reed)

NAGORNY KARABAKH: THE THIRD AND FOURTH VOLUME OF THE ARMENIAN HISTORY

In spring of 1988 Armenia witnessed the largest demonstrations and strikes in Soviet history. Armenians demanded that Berg Karabach, an autonomous region in Azerbaijan, be registered as Armenian territory. Askarian secretly filmed the demonstrations and later smuggled his footage out of the country, creating this important documentary.

Sunday, May 9, 7:30pm, Don Askarian in person International House, 3701 Chestnut St., 895-6542

Filmmakers from as far away as New Zealand and as close as Germantown have contributed works to the festival, with over 21 countries being represented. This year’s festival includes many highlights. Among them: works from Latin America and Africa and the hemisphere premiere of Avetik by Armenian director Don Askarian, who will be here to present it as well as his other great films.

North and South American Premiere
AVETIK is impossible to sum up, and as Askarian would agree, that is its great strength. Sumptuously photographed, it's a film about coming to grips with one's culture by working through generations of his­tory. Each stunning shot of AVETIK expresses a give and take relationship between poetry and history.

At the center of this episodic and elliptical film is Avetik, an Armenian filmmaker exited in Berlin. Avetik remembers his childhood in Armenia, dis­cusses alienation with a friend and tries to reconcile Armenian history with Artashes, a 5th century King. In Armenia, a shepherd searches for lost sheep, and men with flamethrowers patrol a crumbling countryside. This theme of the search for self and culture is established by the first image - that of a man bursting out of a cocoon.

Most notable about AVETIK is the film's poetic styled. The film is shot mostly in long takes. The Armenian landscape, both natural and urban, is as fully realized as the people. Through fantastic photography of both landscapes and interiors, its complexities and contradictions are developed.

AVETIK may be part of a larger re-birth in Eastern: European cinema. But it is unlike any film in recent memory with its superb images and challenging, metaphoric structure. This film will certainly be seen as a watershed in post Soviet Cinema.

"If a film was perfectly ‘interpretable’ that would be a bad omen, if not a death sentence, for the film. How adequately can a film be described, when the way in which artistic information is created and transferred is of a purely cinematographic nature?”

- Don Askarian

Komitas
Soghomon Soghomonian, known as "Komitas," was born to a family of music lovers in 1869 in Kutahya.
" Asia Minor. He spent his first 46 years dedicated to music; the last 20 in mental asylums, unable to write a single note, mourning the death of his people. As a younger man, Komitas traveled the Armenian countryside, collecting peasant songs for generations eager to preserve their heritage. As a composer and conductor, he led great cathedral choirs, giving concerts across Europe, sharing the beauty of Armenian music. In 1915, the Ottoman Empire embarked on a systematic campaign to exterminate the Armenian people, resulting in the death of 2 million people, ¾ the entire Armenian population. Komitas, who had become a symbol of Armenian cultural unity, had a nervous breakdown and stopped composing. Unable to bear the pain and subjected to the abuses of 19th-century psychiatric hospitals, Komitas lost his mind, withdrawing into his own world of tortured memories. Director Askarian creates an evocative portrait of Komitas, relying not so much on biographical detail as on visual poetry and impression. He calls his work a "hieroglyph of reality" and dedicates it to the millions who died.

Don Askarian was born in 1949 in Stepanakert, Autonomous Region of Nagorno Karabakh, in the USSR. He studied history and art in Moscow and worked as an assistant director and film critic. He was imprisoned in1975 and emigrated to West Berlin in 1978. His credits include THE BEAR (1984) a feature based on a Chekhov story. His documen­tary NAGORNY KARABAKH (1988) and feature film KOMITAS (1988), about the life of the famous com­poser, will also be shown in PFWC 1993.

Nagorny Karabakh
The collapse of the USSR has launched a new era of chaos for Russia and the other former Soviet Republics. During February and March of 1988. the Soviet Union experienced a series of the largest demonstrations and strikes in their history. Through­out them, many of the people in the city of Berg Karabakh demanded to be considered part of Armenia rather than Soviet controlled Azerbaijan. The area was quickly declared off limits to foreigners. Armenian filmmaker Don Askarian was witness to the rioting and with the help or other camera people, has created a film that captures an important incident in a part of the world undergoing radical transformation and crisis. Working in fine guerrilla style, Askarian used amateur cameras that could be easily operated, carried and concealed. Askarian had to smuggle his footage out of the country, and edited about 17 hours of raw footage into this hour long documentary. Askarian's commitment to sharing these images gives voice to the Armenians of Berg Karabakh and assures that they will be heard by Westerners who need to understand the complexities and ambiguities of a Communist world under transition.

Linda Blackaby,
Director Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema